“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Hurricane Dorian, which over the Labor Day weekend 2019 was one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record, pounded Grand Bahama and Abaco islands for more than an entire day. The Category 5 storm thrashed these two islands with winds at over 185 mph, storm surge, destroying 13,000 homes, leaving over 70,000 people in need of food and shelter assistance, and forcing the relocation of over 5,500 people to the capitol city of Nassau. The National Emergency Management Agency in the Bahamas stated that over 300 people are reported missing and over 70 people have died. Hurricane Dorian destroyed at least 30% of the coral reef around the Bahamas. This natural disaster impacted lives, homes, livelihoods, families, and Sunday services. The world paused and responded with generous support. International Ministries, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Lott Carey are collaborating in helping to provide spiritual support, grief counseling and trauma counseling to pastors, their spouses, and teachers who have been the most impacted by this natural disaster, and are learning to live and rebuild emotionally, spiritually and physically.
The week of February 16 – 22, 2020, God chose four of us (Rev. Dr. Yvonne Martinez Thorne, Rev. Dr. Leo Thorne, Rev. David Reed and myself) to travel from the US to Nassau and Freeport. We provided training on spiritual care and trauma counseling to pastors, their spouses, teachers who had been evacuated from Abaco and the special crisis team of the the EAP Unit at the Ministry of Education. We were joined by our main host, Rev. Teruco Tynes, from Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). The Bahama Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Coordinator, Bishop Victor Cooper provided on the ground support to our team.
Like any other short-term mission team, we met several times via zoom prior to leaving the US, for pre-trip orientation. We covered the trip, the individuals we were scheduled to meet in prayers. We had been asked by the Grand Bahama Christian Council to provide spiritual support and training to pastors who had gone through the trauma of the hurricane. We had been invited by leaders at the Ministry of Education to be apart of the professional development days for teachers. We offered training, tools, prayers, arms of love, hearts of hope and the Holy Spirit fell fresh on all of us.
All five of us lived a “Paul transformation” in Freeport and Nassau. The scales from our eyes and hearts were removed, so that we could meet God and the healing power of presence, word, breath, butterfly hug, silence and faith. God’s healing light met individual and corporate trauma. We were all deeply moved by the tragic stories of survival our hearts heard. Fifty teachers spoke of the need to have the nightmares stop. Twenty six clergy leaders unveiled their heart desires for self care and breath of living in the sacredness of the meeting space. Nine members of the Crisis Team welcomed the equipping we provided. Our brothers and sisters, survivors, over-comers of the September 2019 traumatic events thirst to be remembered. They were gently and skillfully held in God’s loving hands.
Here are short reflections from The Thornes, Rev. Reed who accompanied me from the US and from Rev. Teruco Tynes (CBF) who is the Spiritual Care Coordinator in Disaster Relief in the Bahamas.
Rev. Tynes shares her perspectives: “As she departed Nassau last November, Rev. Sandra – IM Director for Short Term Missions, made a commitment to return. And she did this past week, with three other angels she’d hand selected in tow. The team was able to spend meaningful time with two local groups – clergy and their spouses in Freeport, Grand Bahama and educators relocated to Nassau from their home in Abaco. The focus was to shine lights of awareness on and bring words to the lived experience of the storm and the harsh realities post-storm. Our purpose was to walk alongside our brothers and sisters in a humble manner and be open ears ever-listening to all which was to pour out. Our sessions together were nothing short of powerfully impactful. Filled with God’s presence, we were able to do that which we had set out to do.”
Rev. Dr. Leo Thorne reflects: “After being in ministry for more than 40 years, I can most assuredly say that I have been exposed to a wide variety of human experiences, some pleasant and others not so pleasant, in the least. This short-term mission opportunity in The Bahamas was deeply profound for me on two levels. On the one hand, I saw my life transformed by the miraculous power of God at work among people whose faith was tested and tried, and they survived in the face of a blistering and catastrophic natural disaster. They experienced the hand of God bringing them through deep, surging waters, sometimes as high as the roof of their houses. Some parents were exposed to making life-saving choices about saving family members. Other persons were rescued by neighbors and friends within moments of death and during their last prayer. On the other hand, I was brought up close and personal to people whose life would be affected by that traumatic experience for many years, at east 10, as we were told by the experts in the field. These terrific people in the Bahamas, particularly those from Abaco, are on a long road to healing; they need our fervent prayers and tangible support. In addition, I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a dedicated team of gifted professionals. What a pleasure and delight! Kudos to Rev. Sandra Dorsainvil, director of Short-Term Mission, for organizing a most memorable and Spirit-led experience. God be praised.”
Rev. Dr. Yvonne Martinez Thorne offers these reflections: “Our short-term mission trip to The Bahamas to provide disaster relief to pastoral leaders in Freeport and to teachers and administrators who are evacuees from Abaco and Freeport was extraordinary. To be in the midst of clergy and their spouses who daily are responding to the tremendous needs of their congregants and communities while coping with their own trauma and life demands was deeply moving. To witness the dignity and continued sense of call in these wounded healers was both breathtaking and inspirational. To also be in the presence of educational staff relocated to Nassau who continue to work and live under difficult circumstances while living with their trauma and multiple losses was heartbreaking and gripping to witness. For many of them, their faith continues to center them and keep them. I am very thankful and grateful for this mission opportunity that allowed me to walk alongside my courageous sisters and brothers in Christ and to co-create a sacred and transformational space for healing and sharing of their stories that has forever changed my life. Thank Rev. Sandra Dorsainvil, IM Director for Short-Term Missions, for leading our team with great professionalism, wisdom, and discernment”
Rev. David Reed’s reflections: “Rev. Sandra invited me to join a team of 5 care-givers on a trip to the Bahamas. I was asked to provide spiritual care for pastors and teachers who, six months earlier, had lived through the literal nightmare of hurricane Dorian. Most were still wading through wave after wave of interior storm surges. They were dealing with trauma, grief, and loss. All of them had lost everything and many had lost loved ones or friends. One person said, “I just want the nightmare to stop.” We started to work with the teachers and it felt like I had brought a Band-Aid for 50 gushing, open wounds and desperately searching hearts. I had to trust that what God had grown in me as a spiritual care-giver was sufficient for this moment. Individually, we could not meet this storm. But as a community the little that each of us had to give, in the Spirit’s possession was enough for that day. By the end of that day, on many faces and in the voices, there was a ray hope in their storm.”
For anyone interested in serving as a volunteer in rebuilding efforts taking place in Abaco, please contact Cooperative Baptist Fellowship through this link. https://cbf.net/dr-bahamas